Blind and visually impaired passengers at London Gatwick Airport can now call a professionally trained agent who will use the camera on their mobile phone to guide them through the airport.
The free, on-demand service can be accessed through the Aira app on a smartphone and will help to give blind and visually impaired passengers more independence to move through and enjoy the facilities at the airport. The system is being trialled for six months at Gatwick in partnership with airline operator EasyJet.
Lord David Blunkett, chair of EasyJet’s Special Assistance Advisory Group, said, “This is a great experiment and innovation which I know over time will be life changing in terms of providing equality to passengers with no or little sight.
“This extremely ground-breaking technological breakthrough will allow the partnership between EasyJet and Gatwick to demonstrate, for future use across airports here and across the world, just how a simple app and addition to a smartphone or other similar technology can make such a difference.”
Once downloaded onto a cell phone, the Aira system is straightforward and simple to use and the trained agents can help passengers to find specific airport locations such as boarding gates, shops and restaurants – or the airport’s special assistance facilities.
The system can also be used to help read flight information, menus, prices and offers in shops, or to find luggage in the reclaim area.
Gatwick estimates that around 12,000 passengers notify the airport that they are blind or partially sighted each year. These passengers can now download and register with the app in advance. Registered users may also use specialist glasses (Horizon) which send the view to the agent.
Chris Woodroofe, chief operating officer, Gatwick Airport, said, “Airports are complex environments and this new system helps to give blind and visually impaired passengers more independence so they can more easily relax and enjoy their time at Gatwick.
“We have an ambition to be the UK’s most accessible airport and we are looking to do this by investing and innovating and by putting the needs of every passenger at the heart of our operation. Ultimately we want to make sure that everybody has an equal opportunity to fly.”